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Kim Bailey: Racing is back with a vengeance *H&H Plus*

Opinion

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  • Racing is back with a vengeance. After a week of watching racing on the TV, mostly staged on the all-weather, we moved to Newmarket for a huge four-day meeting which, even without the crowds, made excellent viewing.

    Staging racing behind closed doors is no fun if you are an owner or a regular racegoer, but watching through the brilliance of ITV Racing and Racing UK at least made the sport exciting. The 2000 and 1000 Guineas were two fabulous examples of our sport and well done to Andrew Balding and champion Flat jockey Oisin Murphy, trainer and rider of the 2000 Guineas winner Kameko.

    The 1000 Guineas went to old guard trainer Aidan O’Brien and jockey Ryan Moore, with Love. Aidan missed out on Saturday when second to Kameko with Wichita. Sadly for all connections, the winning photos might just look a shade odd in a few years’ time when the next generation ask why the face masks and lack of happy faces surrounding the winner.

    How lucky are we to have racing back? Even the BBC news acknowledged the results of the Guineas for a change and in Oisin Murphy, the sport has a very good communicator. You have to hand it to the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) chief executive Nick Rust and his team because racing seems to have swung back into action in an acceptable and responsible manner.

    The BHA worked tirelessly to push for racing to start on 1 June. It was a tumultuous week leading up to the restart of the sport and none of us were really sure we would get that start date.

    So when the Government’s Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, announced on Twitter: “Thanks to the nation’s resolve, horse racing is back from Monday. Wonderful news for our wonderful sport,” his Twitter feed went viral – nearly 10,000 liked his tweet, but many more commenting certainly did not.

    Of course, it is great if you are a racing fan, but those complaining were mostly in vitriolic form. Cheltenham going ahead in March did not endear racing to the public, and there was much anger at the Government’s handling of the Covid-19 crisis. Then the fact that Matt Hancock happens to be the local MP for Newmarket made people think that he gave preferential treatment and the “early” resumption of racing.

    It made us realise all too quickly what a fine line racing is treading and we just did not need anything to go wrong. Sadly on day one of racing’s return, a horse was fatally injured at Newcastle and the trolls on Twitter had a field day – there is a huge number of people out there who really do not like our sport, and so perception is everything.

    “We need to keep the show on the road”

    We are all facing difficult times and racing has perhaps “got away lightly” so far because there have not been reams of redundancies, as in many other entertainment businesses. The sport will be hugely affected by the lack of prize money and the lack of sponsorship over the coming months, and probably years. But the one area racing needs to sort out soon is owners being allowed to go racing to watch their horses run.

    We are blessed as a sport with our owners and they have been incredibly loyal and supportive to all of us trainers. Without them there would not be racing, so it is hugely important that racing gets them back on track as soon as possible. Racing behind closed doors with owners allowed on course would be a starting point, before the general public are allowed back.

    I love my sport and enjoy every moment of my training life – we are so incredibly lucky to have some of the best racing in the world in this country. Now more than ever, we need to pull together and keep the show on the road.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 11 June 2020